For many of us - especially those in service businesses - our existing and previous customers are vital for three reasons:
1. They have already bought from us, so providing they had a good experience, they might buy from us again. We also know that getting a new customer is much more expensive than selling to an existing customer, so by continuing to sell to them, we are really saving ourselves some money.
2. They can give us invaluable feedback on how we did. Was our service good enough? Did we delight them or were we 'just ok'. Did our product meet their expectations? Was it good value for money? And so on.
3. They continue to save us money because they should be our major source of referrals and new business. So through them, we get access to new clients who already know about us and have a positive opinion of what we do.
Most clients I meet are not leveraging their existing customer database, and by not doing so, are losing out on a cost effective source of potential new business. Many receive referrals - for which they are grateful - but it's not because they actively sought the referral, or had a strategy in place to ask for it.
Here are 8 ways to maximize the value from your most valuable asset:
Delight your Clients
Anyone with half a brain can satisfy a customer. But only when you continually delight customers will they keep coming back. You should aim to exceed your customers expectations on every interaction that they have with you. Do this consistently, and you will have a customer for life.
For example, you think your loyal client could benefit from reading a section of your ebook or an article you've written? Surprise them and make it a gift. Sure, you could say, "I'll give you a fifty percent discount." Forego the money. Give your client a reason to stick around and spend a thousand dollars instead.
Personalize, personalize, personalize
"We are entering an era where one size no longer fits all-or even a few. We are entering an era where one size fits one. It is highly personalized, customer-centric, customer-driven." (From One Size Fits One: Building Relationships One Customer and One Employee at a Time).
Known variously as customer relationship management (CRM) and one-to-one marketing, personalization is being practiced by businesses large and small across all sectors of the economy. The message here is simple: you want to lavish personal attention on customers who are going to reciprocate by being consistently good purchasers of your product or service.
Give these customers an incentive to share information about themselves that you can use when you contact them next. The more your customers feel as though you are treating them individually, the more likely they are to continue their relationship with you.
A guarantee is a powerful tool for keeping your customers when they might otherwise go elsewhere. With a good guarantee, you tell your customers where and how to complain, and that complaining is worth their time and effort. It also shows that you care. A good guarantee is unconditional, easy to understand, meaningful, easy to invoke and easy to collect on.
Ask for Feedback
If you don't know what your customer thinks about you, your business, your product and your services, then you might as well close shop.
People will endorse your business not because they think it looks good, but because they know it is good. If they have problems with your services, customers are the best source of objective advice on how to make improvements. So have a process in place where you regularly ask them for feedback. And once they've given it to you, let them know how you are going to use it. They will begin to feel involved in your business, and are more likely to send other people your way.
RELATED: How to Get Feedback from Your Customers
Reward them for being Loyal
Loyalty marketing programs are designed to engender loyalty and increase sales from your best customers. When properly designed and executed flawlessly, loyalty programs provide a vital link between your business and your customers, improving customer satisfaction and increasing sales. Here are some commonly used ideas for creating your own loyalty program:
- preferable rates for loyal customers
- provide bonus product or service if they have bought before
- programs that promote multiple purchases (buy 3 and get the 4th free)
- Points program - each purchase is worth points. When they amass a certain number of points they get a reward of some kind
RELATED: 8 Keys to Building Customer Loyalty
Keep in Touch
Keeping in touch with your customers is about maintaining relationships. Customers are most likely to keep buying from you if you have a strong relationship - if they trust you and your product/service. Your keep in touch strategy should consider:
- the best way to stay in contact (email, telephone, hardcopy newsletter etc)
- frequency (monthly, quarterly event-based), and
- what to talk about (what your company is doing, industry information, tips and hints, useful resources etc)
A Keep in Touch program is not the place for a hard sell. Keep it information based, concise and interesting
Implement a Referral process
Be very clear about who you want as a referral and why. The quality of referrals you receive depends on how well your customers understand what you are looking for. The best way to do this is to write it down for them, or discuss it in some detail - don't assume they already know. At the conclusion of every sale, ask them if they know of any other people who would be interested in your service.
RELATED: 7 Steps to More Customer Referrals
Thank them for referrals - every time
Finding a way to thank your customers for referrals lets them know that you value them for their efforts. It makes them feel recognized, and it reinforces the behavior so they consider referring to you again. A thank you can be as simple as a hand written card, sent through the mail, to a set of movie tickets, a voucher, or even just a phone call.
There are so many ways that we can go one step further with the people who already buy from us. Make this a focus of your marketing efforts and you will soon see the rewards come back in the form of increased referrals and increased sales.
Megan Tough, MBA, Qualified Coach
Director Complete Potential